If This Is a Right Wing Propaganda Machine, It Has Failed Miserably
I was driving home yesterday afternoon, minding my own business, listening to WEEI sports radio and a discussion about the simmering controversy about how the New England Patriots are supposedly stealing signs from opponents during games in violation of league rules. The discussion has touched upon how various reporters, commentators, and fans, with their various biases, are addressing the issue, when out of the blue one of the guys made a facetious remark about contributor Sean McAdam (a self-described liberal) reading the Drudge Report, the implication being that no self-respecting liberal would pay any attention to such a conservative propaganda outlet. Indeed, many others have eschewed implication and gone straight to blunt accusation, as does this bizarre site that refers to Drudge as “a vehicle for Republicans and the Neo-Conservative right wing theocracy” that “peddles rumors, purposely distorted descriptions of political events, and outright lies in an attempt to brainwash the minds of American citizens.”
The site, for those who have never visited, is essentially a page full of links to news articles on on other web sites. Matt Drudge, who runs the site, doesn’t actually do reporting, write articles, or give commentary. From time to time, I have visited the site to see what stories of the day have been sampled, much as I drop in on Refdesk.com to see the quote of the day; occasionally my timing is just right so that an article about a breaking news story is linked there before I see it on major news sites like CNN.com. But aside from that limited experience, I admit that I never paid too much attention to the overall tone of the site or specifically where Drudge readers end up when they click all those other links.
Just for kicks, I spent a few minutes before lunch looking at each and every story linked from the Drudge Report. As of 11:00 EDT this morning, the Drudge linked to the following external web sites, some multiple times as indicated by the numbers:
- Associated Press – 5
- Andrew Breitbart (another clearinghouse of news from other sources) – 5
- Yahoo! News – 4
- The New York Times – 3
- The Evening Standard (UK) – 2
- The Guardian (UK) – 2
- Cybercast News Service
- The Daily Mail (UK)
- The Denver Post
- Entertainment Weekly
- Fox News
- The Hill
- The Houston Chronicle
- The Independent (UK)
- International Herald Tribune
- National Hurricane Center/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- National Weather Service
- The New York Sun
- Sky News (UK)
- The South Florida Sun-Sentinel
- United Press International
- USA Today
- The Wall Street Journal
- WKMG-TV (FL)
- WNCN-TV (NC)
That’s an interesting list, representing some sources that liberals claim are conservatively biased (Fox News, Cybercast News Service), some that conservatives claim are liberally biased (The New York Times, Reuters), and everything in between. There are cable news services, wire services, local television stations, major U.S. newspapers, international publications, and even a couple outlets that can’t be considered even remotely political (ESPN, Entertainment Weekly, National Weather Service).
The subject matter is similarly representative. George Bush speaks about Iraq, Harry Reid opposes him. Crude oil hits $80 a barrel. Cindy Sheehan goes to D.C. to protest. Kanye West and 50 Cent are feuding. A Phil Donahue documentary gets raves. An illegal immigrant woman faces deportation. Our sun will burn out in 5 billion years. Bill Belichick apologizes. A new building in Dubai becomes the world’s tallest.
Then there is the lengthy list of links to every conceivable online news outlet: Access Hollywood, the BBC, Chicago Tribune, Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, The Village Voice, and The Weekly Standard, to name but a few. And don’t forget the columnists, an eclectic mix including liberals like Eleanor Clift, Susan Estrich, and Nat Hentoff, conservatives like Pat Buchanan, Rush Limbaugh, and Peggy Noonan, and celebrities like Roger Ebert and Rosie O’Donnell.
All of which leaves me feeling vaguely, oh, dissatisfied might be a good word. Where’s the smoking gun? Where’s the dearth of left-leaning and centrist content? Is the presence of a link to National Review sufficient to mark Drudge as a purveyor of right-wing propaganda? And if so, then why doesn’t the presence of a link to The New Republic make it an outlet for left-wing propaganda?
I suspect that the people who complain that Drudge is a propaganda tool have never followed the links from its site. But even if they have, the actual content of the site is probably beside the point. To rigid idealogues, the very acknowledgement of dissenting viewpoints—diversity of opinion—is intolerable, as is coverage of newsworthy events that strays from the established narrative or the approved talking points. It isn’t even possible, in their view, for people whose personal opinions differ from their own to report the news accurately. That’s why a veteran journalist Brit Hume, who was universally respected while working for ABC News, was suddenly not to be trusted when he moved over to Fox.
That circle-the-wagons, them-vs.-us mentality seems to be what’s required to look at the Drudge Report and, rather than see the wide variety of news outlets represented there, bristle at a few whose reputation in liberal circles demands that they be shunned. It’s too bad, because they’re missing lots of interesting stories.
UPDATE: Speaking of liberals who don’t actually know what’s on the Drudge Report, I just found an interesting column by the aforementioned Susan Estrich in which she refers to the right wing that “blogs on Drudge.” Um, Susan? Nobody “blogs on Drudge.” It isn’t a blog. It’s strictly a collection of links to articles on other web sites. But thanks for proving my point.